For many kids, the “struggles” of getting to school include hitting the snooze button and racing to make the bus on time.
But for children in some areas of the Philippines, the struggle is a bit more real: without access to transportation from their remote island homes, they’re forced to swim or trudge through murky waters for hours to make it to school and back each day.
“It’s really hard,” says elementary school student Nadzra Mutalib, who lives in Layag-Layag, a mangrove village off the coast of Zamboanga. “Because aside from being all wet, we often step on sharp rocks and corals, injuring our feet.”
The Southeast Asian archipelago is made up of more than 7,000 islands, and according to the Filipino Department of Education, there are over 1,000 communities in the country where distance or lack of transportation makes it challenging for children to continue their education.
That served as motivation for Jay Jaboneta and Doc Anton Lim to start the Yellow Boat of Hope Foundation, a nonprofit dedicated to helping children get to school safe and dry.
“I often joke that we hear of kids skipping school to go swimming, but here were kids who went swimming to go to school,” says Jaboneta, Co-Founder and Vice President. “It grounds you.”
Since 2010, the organization has helped build and provide more than 900 little yellow school boats — a take on yellow school buses — to transport children in nearly 70 communities.
Each boat has the name of the donor painted on its side, along with “Bagong Pag-asa”, which means “new hope.” During school hours, the boats are used by the parents to support their fishing livelihoods, until it’s time to take the children home.
“Before, students were always late or about to drop out,” says Angelita Chang, Principal at Lakewood Central School in Zamboanga. “When Yellow Boat came, I noticed dropouts reduced to two or three pupils.”
The foundation has also expanded its efforts to include working with local NGO’s in conducting medical and dental missions, building a day care center, classrooms and schools, and providing scholarships and school supplies.
“Education is their only way out of the cycle of poverty their family are in,” says Doc Anton Lim, Yellow Boat of Hope Foundation Co-Founder and President. “We have to help make it easier for them to go, stay and finish school. Only when they finish school will things get better. “
Adds student Mutalib, “When we were gifted the yellow boat, we were also gifted a new hope.”
Photos Courtesy of Yellow Boat of Hope FoundationShare this article: